carrot cake was his favorite

carrot cake | the merry gourmet

Oh, hello!

I didn’t intend to take such a lengthy break (a whole month!) from blogging. It just happened. I’ve sat down at my desk to write numerous times, and I’ve even amassed a small collection of first paragraphs. None of these were fit to publish, so they languish in a DropBox folder on my computer. If I were able to gather the many paragraphs I have written and then immediately deleted into one volume, I would have an impressive anthology of crap to show you.

This break would have been wonderful had I actually planned it. Instead, I have suffered through three-and-a-half weeks of guilt over not posting. I’m fixing that today.

My life has been occupied with work and family, but in a mostly good way. I’m also finding time to knit in the evenings and on weekends. I completed a shawl recently, one I hope to be able to wear when it gets chilly or during our summer vacation up north.  I’m trying to complete this wrap in the next few weeks. I’m so happy to be knitting, but I do realize that my evening and weekend knitting has partially replaced some previously carved-out writing time. I’m trying to find a balance.

I am also reading a lot. My life would be empty and sad without books. I’ve got three going right now: Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon; The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; and Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters: Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith, & Family by Pam Anderson, Maggy Keet, and Sharon Damelio. I’m listening to the first one on audiobook, and despite what my 11-year old daughter says, listening to a book does count as reading. I’m reading the second one on my Kindle, and the third one is a hardback book I received free from the publisher.

carrot cake | the merry gourmet

I’m over halfway through the Three Many Cooks book, and I’m really enjoying it, maybe even more so than I expected (though I knew it would be great, given who the authors are). The book is a memoir by the three women behind the Three Many Cooks food blog, and it’s written in their three voices, each one alternating chapters, with a recipe or two at the end of each chapter. I find that I’m bookmarking nearly all of the recipes to try later. The stories that Pam, Maggy, and Sharon tell are engaging, and as I’m reading, it feels as if I’m sitting down with them in their kitchen, sharing stories over cups of coffee. It’s a good feeling, and it’s a good book.

Despite the numerous savory recipes I’ve earmarked in Three Many Cooks, I knew I wanted to bake the carrot cake that Sharon shares on page 43 of the book. My father loved sweets, but of all desserts available to him, carrot cake was his favorite. I can’t recall a specific instance where I learned this. It’s just something I’ve always known, like the color of his eyes or the way he smelled.

I never baked a carrot cake for my dad, despite knowing that it was his favorite. Looking back, I think I thought I wasn’t capable of making a carrot cake that would please him, that it would not be good enough. I’m sure I also thought that I had plenty of time to make one. A whole lifetime, his and mine. Turns out, I was wrong, on both counts.

This was a great carrot cake. My dad would have loved it.

carrot cake | the merry gourmet

Yield: Serves 12-16.

Carrot Cake

I slightly adapted this recipe from Sharon Damelio's recipe for Perfect Carrot Cake in Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters: Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith & Family.

I omitted the cranberries and pecans in favor of a smoother textured cake, as I'm not a fan of nuts in cakes (or brownies or fudge, for that matter). When making the frosting, Sharon recommends leaving the cream cheese and butter on the counter for at least 4 hours, and I agree. I tweaked the frosting a bit, for our tastes.

Ingredients:

For the cake:
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1-1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the frosting:
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch kosher salt
2-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, measured and then sifted

Directions:

Make the Cake:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, with the oven rack in the middle position. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line with a parchment round, then butter and flour the pans, shaking out any excess flour.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, chop the carrots very finely to about the consistency of large couscous. Transfer carrots to a medium bowl and rinse the food processor bowl (you'll need it again).

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Whisk to blend thoroughly.

In the food processor fitted with the steel blade, mix the eggs and sugars until thoroughly combined. With the food processor running, slowly add the vegetable oil in a steady stream until well blended. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. Add the carrots and stir.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the pans cool on a rack to room temperature before inverting them to remove the cakes. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting:

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Gradually add the sifted confectioner's sugar, beating until the frosting is light and airy (2-3 minutes).

Assemble the cake:

Put a small dollop of icing in the center of a cake plate. Place one cake on the plate. Using an offset metal spatula, evenly spread about 1 cup of the frosting over the top of the first cake. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread the entire cake with the remaining frosting and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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23 Responses to “orange-scented fig jam”

  1. tami — July 14, 2011 @ 10:38 am

    I’m gonna need you to send me some of this, k? 🙂 What a lovely post, dear. xoxo

  2. How can you not like this jam??? I made a fig/balsamic jam last year and it blew everyone away. Now this pairing is just bursting with flavor and the booze… how can you go wrong with adding booze!

  3. With Style and Grace — July 14, 2011 @ 11:00 am

    Love the combination of figs and a hint of orange! Great photos – makes me want to eat your cracker bites 🙂

  4. Maggie at Eat Boutique — July 14, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    Beautiful. I need figs right now, lady, so I can whip this up. You know how I like my booze in… anything. 🙂

  5. Nelly Rodriguez — July 14, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    oh this jam looks delicious! love the “orange scented” part, so evoking! Only thing I can’t agree with? Those Triscuits. I am on #WheatThinsTeam 😉 but due to the fact that jam looks amazing, I’ll let it slide!

  6. Junia @ Mis Pensamientos — July 14, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    i love fig jam. in spain, they eat it with manchego cheese + crostini bread!!

  7. Sanjeeta kk — July 14, 2011 @ 11:16 am

    What lovely color and love those fig seeds in the jam. I like the orange tang in it.

  8. Jamie — July 14, 2011 @ 11:16 am

    Love the touch of orange! Oh I am now imaging your mom as mine – she hated cooking although she seemed to prefer hand washing and drying the dishes even to cooking. But no washer either? Wow! The jam looks absolutely heavenly!

  9. Sounds lovely. Now that I’m past thinking that everything fig would taste like those horrid fig newtons of my youth; I can’t seem to get enough of them. Orange sounds perfect…better than the original!

  10. Isabelle @ Crumb — July 14, 2011 @ 11:41 am

    Mmmm.. fig jam is a favourite of mine, both with and without cheese. I can just imagine how wonderful it must be with a hint of orange and cinnamon (…and a whole 1/3 cup of Cointreau? Be still my heart!).
    Too bad I don’t have any colleagues who can bring me baskets of figs. Sigh.

  11. Paula — July 14, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

    A beautiful few moments down the memory lane of your youth and a delicious looking jam. Thank you 🙂

  12. DessertForTwo — July 14, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    Such a lovely, lovely post. I loved hearing about the house you grew up in.

    Your mom’s feelings about cooking reminds me of my grandparent’s generation–while we remember their homemade ‘everything,’ they welcomed canned & ready-made products with open arms. Cooking sure can be a chore sometimes. We do it because we have a passion for it, but I imagine not everyone felt that way back then. Actually, few people probably felt the way we feel about food back then. The last thing my grandmother cooked for me before she passed was homemade fried chicken. She opened up a can of green beans to serve with it, and I swear those canned beans were so darling in her eyes. If not merely because she did not have to can them herself.

    I once made a raw dessert (ick) with figs and orange and it was lovely. I can imagine the flavor combo would be great in a jam!

    P.S. I want that photo of the basket of figs on my kitchen wall. Do you sell? 🙂

  13. LiztheChef — July 14, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    I have made Cathy Barrow’s fig jam – next batch I’m adding the oj and Cointreau – great idea!

  14. Aggie — July 14, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

    Figs remind me of my grandfather. He had so many trees in his backyard, up in NY and down here in FL. Since he moved in his new house he has just a little tree…and I’m really missing the figs. Your pictures are making me wish I had a spoon and some brie!!

  15. jaclyn — July 14, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

    want to know something shameful? i haven’t had figs since i first tried them as a very picky eight year old. i didn’t like them back then, but i think it’s time to give them another chance!

    brie is one of the few cheeses i actually like (i know, i’m a weirdo!), so this combination sounds so lovely!

  16. Snippets of Thyme — July 14, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

    That looks really good. Really.really.good. Whenever I see fig jam, I snatch up a jar without hesitation. I should try to make my own. I haven’t seen figs, though, around here yet. I wonder if they grown in Texas in the summer? I’m going to the farmer’s market this Saturday and I’m going to keep my fig eyes open.

  17. Winnie — July 14, 2011 @ 10:48 pm

    Fantastic MJ. Dying to make this recipe now 🙂

  18. sweetsugarbelle — July 15, 2011 @ 4:53 am

    The moment you said fig you had my attention. I LOVE FIGS! LOVE them. They are my favorite fruit. I’m actually very envious of your neighbor’s fig tree! I buy fig preserves regularly, but this is on my list to try. I am working up canning nerve. Reading about all of the fun summer canned goods has really piqued my interest! This was TRULY a gorgeous post. Thank you!

  19. chinmayie @ love food eat — July 15, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

    Gorgeous looking jam! I love fig! i wish i had a friend who gave me a huge bucket of figs! If I ever get more figs that I can eat I shall try your recipe 🙂

  20. Shellina Guthrie — July 17, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

    Love this idea. I’ve never canned anything- I might need to try it.

  21. What a lovely post. I have never canned anything, but I’ve been thinking about trying some jam! This jam is absolutely gorgeous!

  22. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — July 20, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

    Lovely… The flavors in this jam sound amazing. Really loved reading your post, too… Beautifully written.

  23. Ashley — July 23, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

    Inspired by your post I have a pot of fig and plum preserves simmering away. Thank you!

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